I’m in back in the golden state — home again, home again, jiggity jiggity jiggity jig. After a pretty packed week in Sebastopol I arrived to to my San Francisco apartment Monday afternoon to tidy up the few things still left here after we shipped out most of our stuff in June (two bowls, several cake pans, a mixer, a tiny food processor/immersion blender combo, a muffin tin — you know, the essentials — remain for my cooking needs) and settle in. I finally unpacked my suitcase (having spent about 12 hours here after the long flight from Casablanca before going north I didn’t quite get to it) and stocked up on organic vegetables. This week I’ve caught up on HBO and sorted the mail. I have washed the linens and met friends for happy hour (a ginger beer for me! Sigh …) and lunch (Thai food!) and treated myself to a few coffees out here and there. I have been strangely happy to see the fog in the mornings and have eased back into yoga class.
It is so good to be here but it’s weird too, you know? It has been effortlessly comfortable to slip back into this familiar city and routine and to know this is for real the last summer I will spend in San Francisco seems bizarre. That this apartment where I’ve lived for more than 7 years is soon departing my life forever (rent control, I will miss you so). So things feel a bit surreal in that sense. I feel split between this old, cozy West Coast life and a new life in Morocco, unable to fully sink into either one. Which is my ‘real life’? This one in which I am inhabiting currently, with all its familiar nuances and drifting clouds and beloved ocean? Or the one I recently left, with its interesting challenges and different languages and where everything is strange and new? I suppose the answer is: both, though I will find it a bit difficult to exist in this in-between for too long. 2014 brings with it many changes but at least it will give me a more settled feeling and I look forward to it for that.
In the meantime, I am savoring this quiet space, the last alone-time I will have for years and years. I am not one to get lonely; rather, I love the balance of a bit of socializing and then coming home to sprawl out on the couch for the afternoon with Netflix or a new library book for company. Cooking for one, that solitary pleasure I’d nearly forgotten about, is something I actually look forward to; in fact I don’t dread it at all. Whatever I like, whenever I like it! For example, tonight I plan to stuff myself with a baked russet potato and a stir-fry of garlic, baby kale, corn stripped from the cob, and heirloom tomatoes. Sunday I am planning a swim at the pool up the street and afterward will treat myself to my favorite late breakfast tacos at Green Chili Kitchen. Little Star will figure into a meal very soon. And of course all of the lovely organica and sour cream, cream cheese, udon noodles, myriad of varied and beautiful produce I have sorely missed these past weeks. I find myself dazzled by choices. It’s all quite splendid.
[At least it’s vegan? August 2013.]
And yet, an oddity: In these waning weeks of summer I find myself vacillating about exactly what to eat. The past few days I haven’t even been all that hungry and when I am it’s not for good things despite all those vegetables and fruit awaiting me patiently in the fridge. Real talk: what I want is junk food, meaning salty chips, sharp cheddar cheese quesadillas, cookies, ice cream. Yesterday I got an old school cheese sandwich (cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo and mustard) from a little deli off of Alamo Square Park and took it plus a bag of Kettle honey dijon potato chips and a coke and sat in the windy park to read and consume. I don’t eat sandwiches like this too often (usually it’s leftovers for lunch) but I consider them a guilty pleasure, a real treat to be eaten slowly — out of doors if possible. Alas, when the dinner hour came my appetite was wholly gone, vanished into the compost bin with the trimmings from the chard I’d folded into a pot of quinoa the night before. It’s strange: I figured by now, with D Day about 7-ish weeks away, that I’d be ravenous, especially since I’m keeping up with a fairly rigorous exercise regime.
But my Fennel is a funny one — as she turns somersaults and squeezes up against my stomach she clearly isn’t interested in brown rice or cherry tomatoes or baby kale, all things I in my ‘normal’ life eat greedily and happily. No: it’s sweets, please, and plenty of them. Sigh. Regardless of her wants, I gave into my better nature last night and forced myself to finish off the quinoa, sprinkled liberally with edamame, and had cherries for dessert rather than the Bi-Rite malted vanilla with chocolate and peanut brittle I’d stashed in the freezer. I considered that an accomplishment.
Oh — but eating ‘healthy’ can be so boring sometimes, even when I feel good doing it and know it’s good for me! I’ve settled on a compromise: if I eat my vegetables I’ll allow myself a treat, be it a bowl of yogurt with sliced fruit and honey or a dish of ice cream or, as it happens, a leftover scone.
I baked a bit last week, all gluten-free, availing myself of King Arthur’s excellent gluten-free flour mix: a lemon cake, blackberry muffins, an apple-berry crumble. My sister-in-law Emily was in town, you see, and thus I was compelled to bake without regular flour as she eschews it. The muffins in particular were very good, and I will share the recipe soon, but what I want to tell you about today is her scones.
Now, these weren’t gluten-free, which I consider a true labor of love on Emily’s part because she couldn’t even taste a (delicious) crumb for herself. Perhaps it’s like when I cook meat — I’m not going to eat it myself of course, but I know others will enjoy it and anyway it’s not about me, is it? I don’t make scones too often myself, but I should — they are quick and easy to put together and the basic dough can be viewed as a canvas into which many and varied flavors can be incorporated. Or they can be left quite plain, too, with good results. I love this recipe because it doesn’t call for too much butter (some scone recipes seem just laden with the stuff which always turns me off a little) and is light on the sugar. So in that sense they are the perfect treat for both Fennel and I — she gets her sugar fix and I rest content in knowing it’s not too terribly much. We are both satisfied and able to coexist peacefully, at least for another month and a half or so. Let’s hope this carries through into her life ‘on the outside’ as well, shall we?
This my new go-to scone recipe — it is simple, made with easily obtainable ingredients, and turns out utterly delicious. Emily kept hers pretty basic, adding just nuts and dried cranberries, but you can get as elaborate or pared down as you wish. A touch of ground spice warms things up, and the addition of fresh fruit is lovely. I plan to also make a savory version of these, perhaps with buttermilk and fresh rosemary, at some point.
Makes 1 dozen large scones
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or a mix of wheat-white)
5 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup whole milk
1 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit (chopped cherries, apricots, etc.) OR 1+ cup fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.
1 large egg, lightly beaten
optional additions: 1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger, added with the flour
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter and, using your hands or a fork, blend until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Quickly mix in the milk, then gently fold in the dried or fresh fruit (note that raspberries and blackberries are more delicate). Add the nuts if using.
On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough until it is about 1-inch thick. With a biscuit cutter or a knife, cut out the scones into rounds (alternatively, shape the scones with your hands). Place rounds on the baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Brush each with the beaten egg.
Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until scones are set and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter and jam.